A Moment of Science

A Skeleton Is Worth A Thousand Words

It's tricky business, but there's a lot you can figure out from a human skeleton if you know what you're doing.

A Lego skeleton splashes down in water

Photo: Tabbo107 (flickr)

It's really amazing how much scientists can figure out from a bunch of bones.

Did you know that experts can tell if an ancient Egyptian mummy or a prehistoric human was male or female just by looking at the skeleton?

The human skeleton offers great insight into someone’s life. Not only can it show signs of disease, malnutrition and injuries, it can also reveal a person’s sex. Male skulls tend to be larger than female skulls, with heavier bones and a larger brain case. On the face area, there are bigger brow ridges, thicker jawbones and cheekbones. The chin is more square than a female’s chin, which is generally more pointed.

Then there’s the pelvis. The female pelvis is shaped like a wide, oval bowl with a large opening at the top and a slightly smaller opening at the bottom. If a female has had children, the pelvis will also show this. The male pelvis is generally more narrow; the opening at the bottom is more heart-shaped than oval.

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